Each year we eagerly await the first native wildflowers to bloom (after skunk cabbage, the earliest of all): snow trillium in the Big Woods and pasqueflower on the prairie. A month ago on a fleetingly warm day we found the first tiny brown furry buds of pasqueflower poking up as if to say, “Now?”
Pasque is an old French word for Easter, so why not look for pasqueflower blooming on the Monday after Easter? Surely, we thought, those buds would be blooming by now, even though the past month has been cold and often snowy in the mornings.
Hopeful, but also bundled in full winter gear against the 36-degree temperature and 20-plus miles per hour winds, we set out for River Terrace Prairie Scientific and Natural Area (SNA) near Cannon Falls where year after year an exuberant display of the delicate purple flowers cover a gravelly hillside.
Pasqueflowers are softly hairy all over, which helps to hold in heat and provide a warm landing place for the earliest pollinators, including bumble bee queens just coming out of winter hibernation. Pasqueflowers also follow the sun across the sky throughout the day. We knew these facts, we just didn’t realize that maybe, just maybe, the flowers wouldn’t open on cloudy days.
So yes, the pasqueflowers are up. Yes, they are blooming. It’s just that on the cold and cloudy Monday after Easter the flowers were also mostly closed, waiting for sun. Still, we were delighted to see them, and we’ll come back on the first sunny day to see them open in all their graceful glory.
Flowerchasing on the edge of spring has its challenges, but the promise of pasqueflowers, year after year, warms our hearts.
And so did the car heater on the drive home.
Even though spring feels slow to arrive this year, Minnesota wildflowers are having a “media moment.” Check out our article for Explore Minnesota which was picked up in part by Forbes and mentioned in a Fodor’s article. You can also listen to our first audio postcard from the field for Cathy Wurzer’s Morning Edition at MPR.